I’m no singer-songwriter, but I imagine the phenomenon of hearing another bring your song to life is both a blessing and a curse. To have your own words interpreted by a voice different than your own stands a compliment to your work and breathes new life into your words and score.
Then again. What if this “new voice” is better (or at least dramatically different) than your own? And the fresh version is heralded (by some) as a better interpretation?
In 2005 — perhaps rather organically — Mary J. Blige joined U2 on stage for a rendition of their haunting, tension-filled ballad “One,” and the results were so well-received that a studio session ensued. And I have a sneaking suspicion Bono regrets this every beautiful day of his charmed life. Because while the U2/Mary version isn’t as raw as the original, it arguably evokes more passion.
Best part? At 2:40, in the midst of a powerful crescendo, Mary power-vocals out the biting lyric, “Well, we hurt each other then we do it again.” Indefatigable, she continues to effortlessly dominate the words we’ve all known by heart for two-plus decades: temple, higher law, enter, crawl, etc. etc. But everything old is new again. And this time … with (more) feeling.
Right around 3:10, you can lit’rally hear Bono’s soul drift from his body a little bit. “One love,” he chirps in his new role as backing vocalist, rendered virtually impotent by the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. Even Larry Mullen Jr. is bemused.